Handel, Elgar & Stephen Dodgson Headline New CD/DVD Releases

By Francisco Salazar

This week audiences get a chance to listen to rarely performed works as well as some world premieres. Here are this week’s new releases you cannot miss.


The Academy of Ancient Music (AAM), Cambridge Handel Opera Company (CHOC), and Cambridge Early Music (CEM) have joined forces to release the first professional recording of John Eccles’ “Semele” on period instruments. The recording is directed by Julian Perkins and was made at St. Jude-on-the-Hill, London in late 2019 ahead of a performance in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge.

In a statement, Perkins said, “CHOC is delighted to collaborate with AAM and CEM in reviving an opera that sets perhaps the finest libretto in the English language. The fusion of William Congreve’s lively text with John Eccles’ enchanting music generates a powerful human drama in which ‘Semele’ is much more than a voluptuous social climber and the gods are as frail as the mortals they try to manage. Music of devastating tenderness is juxtaposed with moments of shock, humor, and sophistication, illuminating psychological truths with telling directness.”

The recording stars Anna Dennis, Julian Perkins, Richard Burkhard, Helen Charlston, William Wallace, and Aoife Miskelly.

Margaret Catchpole: Two Worlds Apart

Naxos releases the world premiere recording of Stephen Dodgson’s chamber opera “Margaret Catchpole: Two Worlds Apart,” nearly eight years after the composer’s death.

The work is a four-act chamber opera which was premiered over 40 years ago in 1979. This recording was made during a performance of the work and in subsequent recording sessions at the Britten Studios, Snape Maltings in 2019. The cast includes Matthew Brook, Richard Edgar-Wilson, and Kate Howden.

Partsongs of From the Bavarian Highlands

BR Klassik releases Edward Elgar’s the Partsongs. The recording includes the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunk conducted by London-born Howard Arman, with Max Hanft at the piano for the original, unorchestrated version of the cycle.

Choral Transcriptions 

Naxos continues its Music of Brazil series with Heitor Villa-Lobos’s choral transcriptions of music written in other guises, ranging from Bach fugues to a Chopin waltz to the composer’s own Bachianas Brasilieras no. 9. The recording showcases the São Paulo Symphony Choir led by Valentina Peleggi in a program that also includes classics by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Massenet, and Rachmaninoff in world-premiere recordings of Villa- Lobos’s masterful choral settings.

Under the Arching Heavens 

SACD releases Finnish-American Alex Freeman’s “Under the Arching Heavens,” a modern Requiem commissioned by Nils Schweckendiek and the Helsinki Chamber Choir to commemorate the centenary of the 1918 Finnish Civil War. The work incorporates poems in Finnish, Swedish, and English.


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